M A I N   N E W S

Stage set for Anna fast
Govt unfazed; Lok Sabha to take up Lokpal Bill for discussion today
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, December 26
The country's political class will be on test tomorrow as the Lok Sabha begins discussions on the contentious Lokpal Bill. In Mumbai, Anna Hazare is all set to step up his agitation with a three-day fast from tomorrow for the passage of a stronger version of the Bill. The UPA government has put the onus for the Bill's passage on all parties in Parliament.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal today said though various political parties were entitled to their opinions, persistent objections or stalling of the proceedings would mean opposing the Bill. He stressed the Lokpal Bill was a product of wide-ranging discussions with civil society groups and political parties.

Having succeeded in introducing a new Lokpal Bill in Parliament last week, the Congress-led UPA government has thrown the ball in Opposition's court. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee reiterated today that it was for Parliament to decide what should be the final shape of the Bill. "It is the job of Parliament to legislate. We (the government) had several rounds of discussions with him (Anna Hazare) and his team. We know their viewpoints. Nine rounds of discussions were held with them," he said.

UPA sources said the government would make all-out efforts to see the Bill was passed, but if it failed to get parliamentary approval, it would blame the Opposition for scuttling the anti-corruption legislation.

The Bill could hit a roadblock in the Rajya Sabha where the UPA does not have a majority. "We have done our job, now it is up to the other political parties," said a senior UPA minister. The Congress has issued a three-line whip to all its members asking them to be present in Parliament for the next three days and support the government on the Bill.

The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011, which also seeks to establish ombudsmen in the states besides the Centre, is listed for discussion for eight hours along with the amendment Bill for giving Constitutional status to Lokpal and Lokayuktas. The Whistleblowers Bill is also being taken up.

Hazare, 74, who has been suffering from viral infection, today left Ralegan Siddhi for Mumbai, where he would lead a three-day fast that would be joined by supporters across the country, including Delhi.

He said the repeated flip-flops by the government had forced him to fast again. "They formed a joint committee and then in the joint committee they did a U-turn. They formed a standing committee, but the result was again a U-turn," he said in Ralegan Siddhi.

Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan said in Delhi that they could call off their "jail bharo" agitation if the government agreed to the four "non-negotiable" points raised by them in an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and MPs.

"In the open letter to the Prime Minister and MPs, Team Anna has asked for four changes, which are non-negotiable... for other changes we can continue our fight later," he said.

The demands were: Lokpal and Lokayuktas should have power to initiate investigation of their own, the ombudsman should be able to carry out independent probe, selection of Lokpal should be through consensus in the selection panel and bringing lower bureaucracy under the direct control of the Lokpal.

"Anna will arrive in Delhi on December 30 for dharna outside an MP's house...it could be Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi's residence...It will depend on what happens in Parliament. If there are indications that Parliament or the government is ready for amendments, then there will be no need for it (dharna)," Bhushan said. (with PTI inputs)

Govt forced us: Anna

In spite of being asked not once but several times, the government has failed to create an anti-corruption law. Out of compulsion, this movement had to be launched — Anna 

It’s Parliament’s job: Pranab

We had several rounds of discussions with Anna Hazare and his associates. We know their viewpoints, but it is for Parliament to decide what would be the final shape of the Lokpal Bill.
— Pranab Mukherjee, FM

COng stand unclear: BJP

It is not clear whether the government is sincere or it deliberately wants to kill the Bill because so far, the Cong has been taking 2 steps forward and 4 steps backwards. 
— S Shahnawaz Husain





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